Does Cyril Ramaphosa have the political muscle to oust Jacob Zuma from his position as state president, or can he persuade Zuma to voluntarily step down?
Those are the questions this week as Zuma’s fate hangs in the balance while he waits for both the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC and parliament to assess his fitness to hold office.
If Ramaphosa succeeds in getting Zuma “recalled” from the president’s job – as happened with Thabo Mbeki in 2009 – then he will step up to the podium as president to deliver the State of the Nation Address (Sona) in parliament next month.
City Press reported yesterday that Ramaphosa was gunning to get the top job as soon as possible. “A lieutenant of Ramaphosa’s said the idea was to get Zuma to agree to leave before the NEC meeting on Wednesday, to avoid it descending into a confrontation about his future,” the newspaper reported.
However, analyst Ralph Mathekga believes Ramaphosa is not powerful enough to bring down Zuma on his own. Mathekga said recent moves by Zuma faction loyalists – stating that Zuma would stay put and the planned faction boycott of Ramaphosa’s maiden statement as ANC leader at the upcoming party celebrations in East London – indicated that Ramaphosa is simply not powerful enough in the party.
“Zuma survived for as long as he did because of the support base he has in the ANC. It would be much easier to get rid of Ramaphosa.
“One can easily gather enough mutineers that can go after [Ramaphosa]. He is very aware of that fact, him being the astute politician he is. He will be very careful how he deals with state capture, as you have seen in his recent speech where he did not even mention the words.
“He is likely to tread very lightly so as not to step on many toes.”
However, parliament’s National Assembly subcommittee on review of rules is also scheduled to deliberate on Wednesday and Thursday on a draft procedure for implementing section 89(1) of the constitution, which is the removal of the president.
This follows the Constitutional Court’s judgment handed down in late December that the National Assembly failed to put in place proper rules regulating a procedure for section 89(1) of the constitution.
The court ordered the National Assembly to make such rules without delay to initiate a process under that section “in terms of the newly developed rules”.
“In keeping with the assembly’s commitment to comply fully with the Constitutional Court’s majority judgment, members of parliament serving on the National Assembly rules subcommittee have been notified of the forthcoming meetings and supplied with documents to be considered there,” parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said.
“The documents include a draft procedure drawn up in April 2016, but not finalised, and a comparative study, compiled in 2015, about impeachment proceedings of seven other parliaments on the removal of a head of state.
“The draft procedure, once finalised by the subcommittee, would need to be adopted by the National Assembly as part of the assembly’s rules.”
Meanwhile, according to trade union federation Cosatu, the ANC NEC would this week have to balance the party’s fragile unity against economic and civic pressure to deal with Zuma.
Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla told The Citizen that if the ANC did not move to change the face of South Africa’s national executive, including the presidency, this could have dire consequences for the economy and the party’s support in next year’s general election. “They must first ask themselves if the government given to the people of South Africa is the best they can do. That includes the entire Cabinet and the president,” warned Pamla.
He added that the party’s leadership was in a dangerous catch-22 position. “We are now faced with two centres of power. Zuma has created a lot of mess and is arguing that he has presidential prerogative given to him by the constitution.
“Now, that prerogative lies with a sitting president who is not the president of the ANC.
“We would have preferred that Zuma left a long time ago, but now Ramaphosa and the NEC have to manage that process to make sure they protect the unity of the ANC.
“They also have a responsibility to not alienate people, including those who are sympathetic to Zuma.”